Teachers to be Trained How to Address Equity Issues in Math Education

The Pittsburgh Public School Board is the latest group to implement practices to tackle the influence of white supremacy in mathematics. A consultancy has been hired to help teachers avoid perpetuating white supremacy in their lessons.

The decision

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On October 25, the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board voted in favor of a measure that will pay Quetzal Education Consulting $50,000 to help tackle white supremacy in mathematics.

What the money gets  

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For the $50,000 fee, Quetzal will run introductory workshops for math teachers. It will also run a leadership series for administrative staff.

About the firm

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Quetzal Education Consulting describes its workshops as lessons to help teachers teach “antiracist math.” They also aim to give teachers tools to “identify, disrupt, and replace” classroom and educational practices that perpetuate white supremacy.

What the school gains

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According to Ebony Pugh, the Director of Public Relations and Media Content for Pittsburgh Public Schools, hiring Quetzal will give educators “additional foundational knowledge of antiracist math pedagogy and tangible learning experiences that can be implemented with students.”

The workshops

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The workshops aim to help teachers challenge “oppressive practices in math instruction with practices that center the wellness of students of color.” The workshops will also “provide opportunities for math departments and teachers to grow their antiracist math praxis collaboratively in pedagogy and instruction.”

Further learning

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The series of leadership workshops aimed at administrators will cover “antiracist math leadership.”


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The school board went into more detail on what they hope to achieve with these workshops. “The purpose of this series is to equip educators who have completed the Antiracist Math Workshop Series Edition 1 to develop and lead towards a more cohesive and aligned math instruction praxis across classrooms, departments, and schools. Participants will learn how to train others in the topic of antiracist math, as well as how to identify issues of equity in math spaces.”

Not the first

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Pittsburgh isn’t the first place to try and tackle racism in math education. Oregon set up a teacher training course called “Pathways to Equitable Math Instruction” in 2021.

Pure science?

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A document for Oregon’s toolkit argues that “the concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so.”


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This statement and similar arguments are controversial in the scientific community, partly because “mathematicians are so convinced that math is the purest of all the sciences.” That’s what Noelle Sawyer, a Bahamian mathematician and co-organizer of “Black in Math week,” told Scientific American in 2021.

Woke or working?

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Despite continued assumptions about the objective and meritocratic nature of mathematics, biases do exist in the field. For example, in 2019, the New York Times reported that “fewer than one percent of doctorates in math are awarded to African Americans.”

Conservative criticism

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Pittsburgh’s move is being criticized by conservatives who view it as a pointless distraction at best and another malicious manifestation of so-called “wokeness” in schools at worst. However, with national student achievement scores in math falling behind those from peer nations, it’s clear that something needs to be done to improve how the US teaches math.

Racism in the classroom

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At the very least, Pittsburgh’s move represents an attempt to confront discrimination in teaching. As Edray Herber Goins, a Black mathematics professor, told Scientific American, “If you think talking about racism is distracting, imagine experiencing it.… Not all of us can just ignore what’s happening directly.”

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